I’m intending on taking a break from this subject because I’m afraid I’m just repeating myself, so this’ll be my last word on the matter for a bit unless something that really alters the landscape comes around (or, my fickle nature being what it is, I find myself unable to resist the latest shiny object dangled in front of me).
As I was reading General McChrystal’s Assessment of Afghanistan several items struck me as being equally relevant to any serious attempt to regain control of lawless areas. I put them under the heading of ‘failed cities’ here since they’re the most stereotypical examples here in the states but I imagine there are rural areas that may fit the bill and certainly other countries may have their own lawless areas.
One final caveat before I go on, which I may have mentioned before but it’s worth repeating.
While I think COIN has some interesting things to say about how we might become more effective at addressing organized criminal activity in areas where government control is weak to non-existent I am most definitely NOT advocating a further militarization of our law enforcement agencies, tactics or judicial system. I think we’ve gone quite far enough in that direction and rather, it’s the underlying principles (a population-centric focus), non-military practices (establishing rule of law, confidence building, quality of life improvements) and long term focus that I think has been woefully unexamined or applied.
So, that being said here are some passages I think could equally apply to many ‘failed cities’. Which leads me to another caveat:
I am not making any claims about the equivalency of an insurgency and criminal activity in terms of intent or severity of activity. Make no mistake about it, the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan are much more brutal than any criminal group we currently face in the U.S. (on a comparable scale) and are politically motivated which very few of our criminal groups are. That being said, my argument is that while their intent may differ the net result on the community is similar: erosion of the rule of law, a climate of fear and intimidation, and decay of social/cultural/economic life.
“The relative level of civilian resources must be balanced with security forces, lest gains in security outpace civilian capacity for governance and economic improvements. In particular, ensuring alignment of resources for immediate and rapid expansion into newly secured areas will require integrated civil-military planning teams that establish mechanisms for rapid response.”
Very few initiatives involving lawless areas involve a robust civilian component. There are numerous financial, institutional and political reasons for that but one worth noting is that an attempt at what we consider to be ‘nation building’ here at home would be highly unpopular among suburban tax payers who already consider cities to be a big money pit from which their tax dollars provide no tangible benefits. While we hear nary a peep from people about the massive waste and fraud spent in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan be rest assured, attempts to spend money to in inner cities will be met with screams of protest and warnings about ‘redistribution of wealth’. Those people would have a point, however. Most money spent wasn’t tied to measurable goals and so very often could be lost in a whirlpool of corruption, mismanagement or lack of sufficient coordination. So…
ISAF’s tendency to measure the enemy prodominately by kinetic events masks the true extent of insurgent activity and prevents an accurate assessment of the insurgents’ intentions, progress, and level of control of the population.
That goes double when we’re talking about crime here in the states. We count crime statistics. Usually, law enforcement is prompted to act in significant ways only when there is a media grabbing event (a child shot in a drive by, a particularly violent attack, etc.). Where are the assessments that a neighborhood is poised for an outburst of violence? Where is the analysis looking at other factors to measure risk to a community? Where are the proactive initiatives to prevent that sort of activity? It’s just not there in any sort of systematic way. You just have to hope that the right people are hearing the right things, transmitting them to a receptive leadership and getting the right response. I call that the George Michael strategy.
HQ ISAF must understand and adapt to the immediacy of the contemporary information environment through the employment of new/social media…
Apart from a public affairs office, the COPS TV show and (if you’re lucky) a some sort of rudimentary sports outreach how does the government and its security forces get its message out there? I understand government institutions (particularly law enforcement) are conservative in their culture but they really can’t afford to be if we expect significant changes in the crime environment. Initiative and experimentation must not only be allowed but be encouraged. We need to invest in information operations and shouldn’t shy away from trying new things.
ISAF does not sufficiently appreciate the dynamics in local communities, nor how the insurgency, corruption, incompetent officials, power-brokers, and criminality all combine to affect the Afghan population. A focus by ISAF intelligence on kinetic targeting and a failure to bring together what is known about the political and social realm have hindered ISAF’s comprehension of the critical aspects of Afghan society.
Again, that’s even more true domestically where strategic intelligence is generally regarded as namby-pamby academic stuff with no real value. Instead, everyone want to jump in with both feet to get the bad guy. Madcap hilarity then ensues as either its discovered that we only succeeded in getting the stupid bad guy who hadn’t figured out how to keep a low profile or we get the right guy but business is so good that two new bad guys immediately jump up to take the old guy’s place.